I am color-blind or willfully blind?

Brian Phillips
San Jose, CA

Could I be that ignorant of the nature of race in this country that I don’t see color? Or perhaps it is a sign of progress. Or maybe I’m just kidding myself and oblivious to my own surroundings.

Keep the conversation going - comment and discuss with your thoughts

2 Responses to "I am color-blind or willfully blind?"
  1. Sarah says:

    This is just a personal experience but the colorblind approach left me wanting when I was growing up. Because when people say colorblind, they usually mean white. I’ve found colorblind to mean “what I assume from my environment, what I’ve grown up to believe and understand, what I know and assume everyone else knows also”

    I don’t want to assume this about anyone else….but, in my life, colorblind approaches have always portrayed themselves as “mainstream, white, middle-class utopian ideals” that have left much to be desired. By encompassing the diversity (including the differences) of race, the histories, the legacies, the emotions, I have felt more educated, more comfortable (overall, sometimes these conversations are very hard) and more at peace with myself and others.

  2. Emmaline says:

    I am taking a communications course that studies gender identity, sexuality, and representation. One thing my professor pointed out is that the dominant group of a category is always invisible. For example, when we hear “gender studies,” we think of women, and not men; when we hear “race,” we think of Black/Latino/Asian/Native American/etc. and not White. This is how those dominant categories are able to retain their power, by staying invisible. Because then race is an issue for People of Color, or gender equality is an issue for women; these are the groups that are making complaints, so they are expected to make the changes –but in reality, the groups with power are also just as interconnected, and should be just as involved.

    So if you are White, you probably /are/ blind to race, because you don’t have to deal with it every day. According to our society, it isn’t your issue. This way of thinking is part of what impedes our efforts to equalize all racial (including White) backgrounds. However, at the same time, I can also see how this is a progressive perspective. Race just isn’t important to you, at least in the way it seems to be for others –you do not prejudge a person by the color of their skin or by the stereotypes that revolve around them, and that is how you are “colorblind.” I am the same way. I grew up in a Japanese-Mexican family with cousins that were either part White or part Black. We are all “colorblind” just from living with each other; as someone who looks Asian, I have encounters with racism that are very different from my blatantly Black cousins, but nonetheless we all stress the importance of evaluating someone’s character, and not their background.

    So to sum things up, I would say that yes, you are ignorant to racial relations in this country, but you are also progressive. Truthfully, race is both more and less important than our culture makes it out to be and we’re in a very complicated, confusing time. There are those who believe that racism does not exist (only because it is not a part of their personal lives), but then there are those who are incredibly offended by even an accidental remark. I once used the term “Colored People” instead of “People of Color”, and because of the negative historical connotations, a White woman went off on me and said I “needed to learn some respect.” The fact that she was standing up for African Americans and their struggles shows how far we’ve come; but her rudeness was uncalled for, especially since I was speaking in favor of non-White persons, and obviously had not intended to insult anyone.
    So it’s a delicate topic.

    My suggestion for you is to discuss race with people you know. Ask what they deal with every day. And if people get defensive about it, just clarify that you are curious about what others experience; they shouldn’t be angry with you for simply wanting to learn more –in fact, it is a chance for their voice to be heard. Generally, people are happy to tell their story, because for once someone is asking their opinion and how they feel, rather than not asking and later drawing conclusions from misinformation. Direct communication is key to understanding.

    I apologize for the long message, but I hope it helps.

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